Book Review: Foreshadowing – Marcus Sedgwick

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“If you could see the future, could you change it?

It is 1915. 17-year-old Sasha Fox is the privileged only daughter of a respected doctor living in the wealthy seaside town of Brighton. But her brothers, Edgar and Tom, have gone to war and Sasha has a terrible gift. She can see the future. Her premonitions show her untold horrors on the battlefields of the Somme, and worse still, what will happen to Edgar and Tom.

Like the prophetess Cassandra, who foretold the tragedies of Troy, Sasha is trapped by power. No one will believe her. Her family have lost faith in her. She is determined to win them back, whatever the price. And it is a high one – seeing the future is a fate almost too awful to contemplate – for who wants to see the end of their own story…?

Stylishly written in his familiar, poetic prose the story is that of a world full of threat and a child in jeopardy – but with a heroine resourceful enough to try to change the path of Fate.”

 Okay, so, here’s the deal.

This book was given to me many years ago, as a birthday present.

And not one of the good presents, either. I didn’t recognise the author, was more than a little dubious about that alleged ‘poetic’ style, and, regardless of the fact that it had a pretty intriguing synopsis, as soon as I realised that the main character could see into the future, I also realised exactly what it was that I was holding, and was about ready to do absolutely anything to avoid immersing myself into yet another book-related misery fest – at least not until I’d had time to recover from the last one.

So, I shelved it instead of reading it, and promptly forgot that it was even there.

Then.

(She says, casually building the tension)

I was given another Sedgwick book to sink my metaphorical teeth into, and given that it came highly recommended by the book-giver (more colloquially known as my older brother), I decided to give that a try, on the basis that if I really didn’t like it, I could always read something else instead.

And – drum roll please – I loved it.

It was an absorbing, involved read, an incredibly well written novel, and, wonder of wonders, blessed with an interesting plot and intriguing, well-defined characters. As such, I experienced a complete turnaround on the subject of Sedgwick’s novels, and, subsequently, decided to read Foreshadowing too, on the basis that the chances of me enjoying it were relatively high, and because I was on something of a roll.

I was right on all accounts, which was enough of a surprise that I actually remembered being surprised.

Foreshadowing is, as I so articulately termed it, a ‘misery fest.’ Really. It’s miserable at the beginning, it’s miserable at the end, and the less said about the middle the better it is for everyone involved.

But it is hardly rare for a book to inspire some kind of emotional reaction, whether it’s unholy glee or helpless messy sobbing, and, arguably, the emotional impact that Foreshadowing has on the reader only improves it. Easily as good as Sedgwick’s other novels – if not more so – it’s a calculated foray into the trope of the seer, turning an arguably rather overused plot device into something new, fresh, and interesting. This is no happy story, but it doesn’t pretend to be one, either.

Plot:

War devastates the world, and the main character, Zoe, is blessed – or cursed – with visions of death. Foreshadowing is her story, and it is one that takes the reader from the structured environment of her home to the relentless horror of the Somme, and one that never once pulls a punch. Foreshadowing doesn’t shy away once, not even from the most difficult of topics, and Sedgwick’s portrayal of individuals suffering PTSD was both truthful and sympathetic, an admirable quality in any novel touching on past conflict. The plot was discernible and easy to follow, but still managed to surprise and shock.

Characters:

Naturally, I objected particularly vehemently to some of the characters, but not because they were badly written, but because they were the exact opposite. They were totally believable, profoundly irritating, and extremely well crafted. However, I found it impossible to relate to Sasha, and didn’t much like what I did understand, either, which is why although Foreshadowing is an excellent book, and although I enjoyed reading it – for a given value of ‘enjoyed’ – it’s not one of my favourites. Granted, that’s not a reflection on how the book was written – just on me, a terrible human being.

General Comments:

Foreshadowing is not a happy read, but it is not marketed as one, and I think the average reader should be able to tell from the outset exactly what they’re getting into. But it is very well written, a shining example of Marcus Sedgwick’s work and style, and home to an intriguing plot and believable characters, as well as an intelligent and sympathetic portrayal of war.

An assured novel from an assured author, Foreshadowing is well worth a read.

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